The World Health Organization, worldwide governments, and healthcare security agencies are halting travel as we continue to fight the Coronavirus pandemic. Although current travel bans just apply to trips scheduled during the first half of the year, collective panic and worldwide chaos are causing travelers to seriously rethink their longterm travel plans.
When vacations are already booked, canceling or rescheduling flights, tours and hotels can be a complicated, stressful process. While we wholeheartedly recommend self-isolating right now, travelers with plans to vacation at the end of the year could choose to wait for additional research before completely shutting down the possibility of visiting their dream destination.
What’s COVID-19, anyway?
COVID-19 is caused by a new member of the Coronavirus family, originally discovered in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Even though scientists are still learning its behavior, life cycle, and transmission patterns, this is not the first time the world has been shaken by a Coronavirus. Back in 2002, an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) caused by the SARS-Associated Coronavirus infected more than 8,000 people worldwide. 10 years later, the first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), caused by a MERS-CoV, was reported in Saudi Arabia. While it might be too soon to know the outcome and end date of the COVID-19 pandemic, lessons learned from similar outbreaks can give us key clues about its lifecycle and impact.
The impact of seasonal changes in COVID-19
We know that viruses that cause flu symptoms tend to increase their transmissions during the winter. Past research with SARS and MERS leads experts to believe high temperatures and humidity might influence and even reduce the transmission of COVID-19
While that’s good news, even if COVID-19 proves to have a seasonal pattern, it’s irresponsible to think high temperatures alone will kill it off. When it comes to COVID-19, there are more questions than answers, and the implementation of strong public health interventions is essential to reduce its durability.
The death of it
During the SARS and MERS epidemics, Public health authorities rapidly implemented strict measures that included quarantine, isolation, and an increase in the capability of global healthcare services. SARS had a 10% death rate, which means that symptoms were more severe, and people visited hospitals more often to get diagnosed. Since COVID-19 can widely affect individuals without them showing symptoms, the number of cases might be higher than reported. This is why strong public health policies and mandated quarantine in affected zones play a crucial role in ending the pandemic as soon as possible.
The pandemic might end, but the virus could persist
As of today, COVID-19 has officially spread to 185 countries. It’s now a fact that the virus will spread through all corners of the world and affect more than half of the population during its first wave of infection. Having COVID-19 as a permanent character in our lives might sound scary, but, if the virus decides to stay with us, it is likely its behavior will change, as established diseases usually behave differently than epidemics. This is a long, painful process that can take from months to years, similarly to what happened with the H1N1 2009 epidemic.
H1N1 had a lower fatality rate than SARS and MERS, but it spread widely and ended up infecting more than 60.8 million people. H1N1 is now part of the seasonal cases of flu, and there is a vaccine available that helps protect patients at high risk of developing complications because of the infection.
Other key facts that might help us win the battle against COVID-19
Seasonal changes, strict public health interventions, and the natural life evolution of the virus are key determinants to understand how it will continue to spread. COVID-19 will likely come to an end, but in order to speed up the process and figure out the whens and hows, worldwide collaboration, hygiene campaigns, and access to scientific research are needed.
Have travel plans? Here’s what we recommend
If you have a vacation booked this summer, current travel bans require that you reschedule your plans. The world’s biggest airlines are currently offering solutions for individuals in this position, and you will likely be able to reschedule free of charge.
If you have travel scheduled for the end half of the year, you could still cancel your travel plans, but don’t have to do it just yet. We’ve learned how external factors might alter the virus’s behavior, and you might see these changes before your expected departure date.
If the outbreak still persists weeks before your vacation, it is highly likely that airlines will give you the option to cancel free of charge, similar to what is happening now. If you decide not to cancel, we recommend you add Coronavirus travel insurance and free cancelation options when choosing your accommodation, and avoid booking tours that don’t have flexible cancelation policies in advance.